Friday, August 19, 2011

Gazpacho Recipe with an Indian Twist for a Hot Summer

My mother fell in love with a young dashing sailor and sailed off into the sunset with him. They even continued to sail together after having kids (I definitely have my sea-legs). But when the kids got old enough for school, my parents made a hard decision.

She settled down on land with the family, while my father continued to sail. My mother expressed her wanderlust through her cooking. Yes she served us traditional Bengali dishes, but we also regularly had more exotic fare pizza, lasagna, spinach cream soup and tiered Western-style wedding cakes(without the wedding). This made us different, and even led to her catering business, until I considered it just a part of life. Actually, I had more important things to worry boys.

But when I came to America and discovered all the different ethnic communities and foods in Houston, tasted the different spices and savored their aromas, I think I finally understood my mother's passion for exploring new foods. I dived in with glee and ate at taquerias and late-night Pho restaurants, dined at Lebanese places with belly-dancing, and enjoyed Greek food and Greek dancing. Much of my college experience was all about exploring, as it should be.

Now as woman, wife, mother in her thirties, I'm all about melding the kitchen of my childhood to the flavors and spices I have adopted in my own kitchen. My mother has a wonderful saying: "Without roots, you can't have branches."

I guess, that's what I'm trying to do, grow myself and my family by caring for the roots and branching out toward new adventures.

Here's my recipe for a Rashda-Style Gazpacho:

The Spanish Gazpacho is one of the most popular cold soups. Traditional recipes include bread as a thickener and while tomatoes are often a key ingredient, they were only added after Spanish explorers had discovered the new world. The soup has Roman and Moorish roots, so in homage I added my own desi/Indian flavors. Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you…this is simple and tasty and perfect for 109-degree West Texas summers! Chock full of produce, the soup is also good for you.

1 slice of whole wheat bread, crust removed
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
(from the farmer's market, aren't they pretty?)

2 pounds of ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

(ones from the garden are the best!)

1 large red or green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
½ a small red onion, peeled and sliced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 clove of garlic, bruised and peeled
1 cup chicken stock or vegetable broth
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup Sherry Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar
½ to 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
½ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnishes (optional, but highly recommend at least a few)
• A handful of cilantro or parsley leaves, finely chopped
• ½ a small red onion, peeled and minced
• Green onions, both green and white parts, thinly sliced
• ½ of a yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
• whole yogurt, lightly beaten to drizzle
• ½ a cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
• Additional extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle

1. Place bread in a small bowl and pour enough water to cover. Let it soak for about half an hour. Squeeze the water from it before using.
2. Using a food processor or blender, puree all the ingredients from bread to spices (if using) until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Serve in soup bowls with garnishes on the side. Serves 6.

This post is part of August’s #LetsLunch, where a group of food bloggers get together and post a receipe around a different theme. This month’s theme is cold entrees.

Here are some other great recipes from fellow #LetsLunch-ers:

Cheryl’s Spicy Sichuan Sesame Noodles at A Tiger in the Kitchen.

Charles’Cold Olive Oil Poached Chicken, Potato and Watercress Salad with Buttermilk Tarragon Dressing at The Taste of Oregon.

Danielle’s Couscous with Cilantro Pesto & Halloumi at Beyond the Plate

Eleanor’s Cold Noodles with Hoisin Pork, Spicy Shrimp and Stir-fried Vegetables at Be A Wok Star.

Emma’s Mul Naengmyun at Dreaming of Pots and Pans.

Linda’s Gazpacho Rolls at Free Range Cookies.

Lisa’s Byron Sprout Salad with Chargrilled Chicken at Monday Morning Cooking Club.

Maria’s Croque Monsieur with Cheese Bechamel at Maria’s Good Things.

Mai's Strawberry Soup at Cooking in the Fruit Bowl

Rebecca’s Rack of Lamb with Mustard and Rosemary at GrongarBlog.

Victor’s Seafood Napoleon at The Taste of Oregon.

If you want to join the fun send a tweet with a #Letslunch hashtag! Until next time, enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hot Giveaway: A culinary romance with recipes

If you like food and happy endings, checkout this giveaway:

Hot Giveaway at Romance Magicians

What's the prize?

Too Hot to Touch by Louisa Edwards

Delish, right?

To read my interview with Edwards and get a sampling of the recipes from Too Hot To Touch, check out my article.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We have a Winner for the Stir It Up! Giveaway

And the winner is FamilyFoodie! WooHoo!

Thanks everyone for checking out Stir It Up! and visiting my blog. Enjoyed meeting y'all! :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review & Give-away: STIR IT UP! A Multi-cultural Foodie MG Read

Raising a multi-cultural blended family that is as familiar with its Asian heritage as its German-Polish roots in the heart of West Texas isn't easy.

The farm life, the mainstream Anglo-culture is a constant presence, but the desi relatives and cultural celebrations are often part of visiting my parents in Houston. While my children treat Indian clothes as special, reserved for celebrations, they are more likely to identify with cowboys than the Indians. As a woman of color, I'm just not comfortable with that...I want them to embrace both and more. Yes, I want them to have the world.

So I'm always trying to involve the family in experiences that introduces them to diverse cultures and people, teaches them to appreciate what is unique and different, and also recognize all we have in common. We learned Renaissance dancing and helped put together India Day at our local museum, we've cooked up special dinners to celebrate Eid and the Chinese New Year. But --as a family of readers -- we often explore through books.

One of my latest finds is food writer Ramin Ganeshram's Stir It Up! A wonderful middle-grade novel featuring a spunky, creative 13-year-old heroine Anjalie Krishnan.

I love the determined way Anjalie goes after her dream of becoming a chef and grabs onto the opportunity to compete for a shot at being a Super Chef Kid and get her own television show on the Food Network. Her ambitions clash with the expectations of her immigrant family. Anjalie's father runs a Trinidadian roti shop and throughout the story you see him, Anjalie and her grandmother working in the kitchen and the shop. Cooking is their world, yet he wants more for his children -- a universal want that will resonate with all parents.

Kudos to Ganeshram for skillfully resolving the conflict, making the family recognize that cooking for Anjalie isn't just work but a passion. One of my favorite things about the book is the close relationship between the heroine and her grandmother, Deema. Being a foodie, I also appreciated all the wonderful recipes --both traditional and innovative --sprinkled throughout the story.

Stir It Up!was a fun, fast-paced read that magically transported this reader to Little Trinidad --Richmond Hills in Queens -- in New York City. I could almost smell the spices flying about the kitchens...and it left me hungry for I made Deema's Easy Curry Chicken.

AND, here's a bit of good news: Scholastic Press, the publisher, kindly offered to giveaway a copy of Stir It Up! So leave a comment with your email or twitter handle for contact. The randomly chosen winner will be announced Tuesday, August 9, 2011.

Deema's Easy Curry Chicken from Stir It Up!

4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh shado beni or cilatro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 Tablespoons Trinidad curry powder
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 medium yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk


1. Marinate the chicken by mixing the onions, garlic, shado beni/cilantro, cumin and 2 teaspoons of the curry powder. Set aside in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or overnight.

2. Heat oil in a deep saucepan and add the chicken mixture. Add the remaining curry and mix well. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add chicken stock, potatoes and salt. Simmer for 15 minutes and continue to cook until the sauce thickens, for about 5 minutes more.

4. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 3 minutes more. (Note: I had some peppers from the garden, so a sliced them up and added them at the end for color) Taste to adjust seasonings. Serve with rice or rotis.

Makes 4 servings.